- Massachusetts Domestic Violence
- Massachusetts Domestic Violence Law
- Massachusetts Criminal Penalties for Domestic Abuse
- Assault/Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member
- Stalking/Criminal Harassment
- Violation of a Restraining Order
- Intimidation of a Witness
- Mandatory Arrest in Massachusetts
- Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges in Mass
- A Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Can Help
Massachusetts Domestic Violence
Massachusetts law makes it a crime to commit any act of domestic violence, which is also known as domestic abuse. That includes acts of physical violence, threats of violence, or forced sexual activity between family or household members. It is also a crime in Massachusetts to violate a domestic violence protective order providing an alleged victim protection from domestic abuse. If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime in Massachusetts, you need the help of a skilled Massachusetts criminal defense attorney who specializes in domestic violence defense. Domestic violence crimes carry harsh criminal penalties upon conviction, and you don’t want to leave your case in the hands of an inexperienced lawyer.
Massachusetts Domestic Violence Law
The crime of domestic abuse in Massachusetts is defined by MGL c209A §1 as an incident involving any of the following acts that occurs between family members or members of the same household: causing or attempting to cause physical harm, placing the other person in fear of imminent serious physical harm, or forcing the other person to engage in sexual relations by use of force, duress or threat. For the purposes of determining what constitutes a crime of domestic abuse, the term “family or household member” includes people who:
- Currently are or previously were married,
- Currently are or previously were living together in the same household,
- Currently are or previously were related by blood or marriage,
- Have a child in common, or
- Currently are or previously were involved in a dating relationship.
For the crime of domestic assault or domestic assault and battery, specifically, the term “family or household member” refers to people who are or were married, people have a child in common (regardless of whether they have ever lived together or been married), or people who are or were in a dating or engagement relationship. The following are some examples of domestic violence-related crimes in Massachusetts:
- Assault or Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member – MGL c265 §13M(a)
- Aggravated Assault and Battery – MGL c265 §13A(b)
- Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon – MGL c265 §15A(b)
- Strangulation– MGL c265 §15D(b)
- Violation of a Restraining Order – MGL c209A §7
- Stalking/Criminal Harassment – MGL c265 §43(a)
- Intimidation of a Witness – MGL c268 §13B
- Kidnapping – MGL c265 §26
Massachusetts Criminal Penalties for Domestic Abuse
A Massachusetts domestic abuse crime can be charged in any number of ways depending on the circumstances of the offense, and the specific criminal charge (i.e. assault and battery on a family or household member, violation of a restraining order or stalking/criminal harassment) plays an important role in the severity of the sentence imposed by the court upon conviction. The following are some examples.
Assault/Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member
If you are found guilty of assault or assault and battery on a family or household member in Massachusetts, you could face a punishment consisting of imprisonment in the house of correction for up to 2 ½ years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both (MGL c265 §13M(a)).
If you are found guilty of stalking a family or household member, a crime known as criminal harassment, you could face a punishment consisting of imprisonment in the house of correction for up to 2 ½ years, a fine of up to $1,000, or both (MGL c265 §43(a)).
Violation of a Restraining Order
Violation of a Massachusetts domestic violence restraining order is also considered a criminal offense carrying its own penalties. If you are found guilty of knowingly violating a restraining order or abuse prevention order by either failing to vacate or by abusing or contacting the alleged victim (the petitioner), you could face a punishment consisting of imprisonment in the house of correction for up to 2 ½ years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both (MGL c209A §7). You could also be ordered to participate in a batterer’s intervention program.
Intimidation of a Witness
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors take the crime of witness intimidation (preventing an alleged abuse victim from calling the police or attempting to prevent the alleged crime from being reported) extremely seriously. If you are found guilty of this crime, you could face a much more severe punishment possibly consisting of imprisonment in the state prison for up to 10 years, a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, or both (MGL c268 §13B).
Mandatory Arrest in Massachusetts
Like many other states, Massachusetts has a mandatory arrest policy in domestic violence cases. That means if the police show up at your home on a domestic violence call, whether the call was made by your spouse, your child or your neighbor, and the officer has reason to believe that a family or household member has been abused or is in danger of being abused by you, you will likely be arrested, even if the alleged victim doesn’t want to press charges. It is also important to understand that alleged victims of domestic violence cannot decide to “drop” the charges against you. Once a domestic assault and battery case has been initiated, only the prosecutor or the judge can dismiss the charges. That is the main reason we always recommend retaining the services of a qualified Massachusetts criminal defense attorney following a domestic violence arrest.
Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges in Mass
Being accused of assault and battery is devastating enough, but the implications of a charge of assault or assault and battery on a family or household member are far more serious and such a crime is punished more harshly under Massachusetts law. That being said, just because you have been accused of domestic assault and battery does not automatically mean you will be found guilty of the crime and be sentenced to jail. The standard of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the highest legal standard of proof possible. In order to convict you of intentional assault and battery on a family or household member, the prosecution must prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You touched the alleged victim,
- You intended to touch the alleged victim,
- The touching was either offensive or likely to cause the alleged victim bodily harm, and
- You and the alleged victim were family or household members at the time of the offense.
A Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Can Help
If you have been arrested for domestic abuse in Massachusetts, it is important to consult a domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss possible defense strategies. There are a number of defenses a good attorney can use to challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you and the sooner you call, the sooner your lawyer can get to work building a strong case on your behalf.